After weeks of rain, the sun appears over San Francisco.
This week I met a friend on Columbus Avenue in North Beach for a long, leisurely lunch. He was new to the city. We traded stories of how we got here and how it's different from the places we came from.
It was a perfect day to watch the city go by. Columbus Avenue always moves, but at a slow pace. Pretty women walk by. Aspiring novelists type away at their computers in a cloud of espresso steam. We had the luxury of time, which is exceedingly rare for me. Normally, my day starts running and ends running.
My friend's pleasant conversation reminded me of another warm afternoon in Philadelphia, the summer after I finished art school. My roommate went away to a summer house-sitting gig, so our apartment was quiet as a tomb. My girlfriend had just dumped me, most of my friends left town for the season, and I felt confused about what I should do next. I decided to stay put, work my job, and paint some pictures. I'd think hard about what had gone wrong. I wouldn't make a big decision until I had a well-made plan.
The hot, silent days dragged by. When I wasn't working my job or painting, I had little to do. Often I just wandered around Center City, watching people. One day I ran into Tony, and Italian boy I'd bussed tables with. We sat in a window at Dirty Frank's on 13th Street, where the house beer only cost fifty cents a glass. Even poor boys like us could tank up.
I don't know how long we sat there. I unloaded all my complaints on Tony, mostly about my failure to impress young women. He nodded sympathetically, even though he was so good looking, he'd encountered little frustration with girls in his life. Finally we went out separate ways, and the long summer lurched into fall.
At the time, I was embarrassed to say that afternoon drinking with Tony was the best day of the summer for me. I didn't go on a single date with a young woman, after all. Now I feel different. Talking and drinking with Tony, watching people walk past Dirty Frank's was the best thing I could have done. Such moments are rare, and maybe they should be.